We’ve known for a while now that obtaining a fake ID is easier than ever thanks to the Internet. But now, we have the research to back it up thanks to Thomas Holt, professor and director of the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, and his team of researchers.
His team of doctoral candidate Jin Lee and 10 undergraduate students monitored a number of fraudulent document vendors online, and were surprised to find that many of these vendors operated freely on the open web and were not exclusive to the dark web. “Most people think that the majority of selling and buying of fake documents occurs on the dark web, but we found more opportunities on the open web,” Holt said.
They were not just surprised about the quantity of fraudulent document vendors they came across, they were also surprised about the methods used by vendors to conduct business. Lee said "The way that these products were being sold was kind of novel and it mirrored traditional e-commerce sites like Amazon."
It’s incredibly difficult for law enforcement agencies to identify and shut down these vendors because they deal in payment types that are difficult to trace back to an individual person, like Bitcoin.
The researchers found that passports were the most common fraudulent document being sold online, but were surprised to find many customers wanted passports from other countries and especially passports originating from European Union countries. This is either because the security features in U.S. passports make them too difficult to counterfeit successfully, or because a European Union passport allows for easier border crossings across its member countries.
As technology advances and use of the internet continues to grow, it is almost certain that we will keep seeing an increase in fraudulent documents. Whether they are made in someone’s basement here in the United States or developed as part of a large operation overseas is beside the point; fake IDs are here to stay.
While you may not be able to control who buys and sells the documents, you CAN control who you sell your products to. With an IDScience forensic authentication system you’ll never have to worry about serving underage customers again. To learn more about what we offer, please reach out to a member of our staff at (508) 533-1671.
Holt’s full findings and published journal article can be found here.